House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was endangered.

Topics

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member for Winnipeg--Transcona for his point of order because he is absolutely correct. We do have a rule against bringing cellphones into the House. I have had occasion to chastise members in the past who have left their telephones on and indeed some whom I have caught speaking on them.

I am sorry I did not see it. Had I done so, I can assure the hon. member that I would have taken appropriate steps to chastise the member involved. I thank him for drawing it to the attention of the House. I am sure all hon. members have noted his comments and mine.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to a question that was raised in question period today by the hon. member for Saint John. Within that context, the hon. member was interrupted in posing that question on the basis the Speaker maintained that an issue before a committee could not properly form the subject matter of a question.

I refer to House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Marleau and Montpetit, chapter 11 at page 429 which deals specifically with the subject matter concerning matters before a committee. I know the Speaker is intimately familiar with the rules of practice and procedure here, but I draw the attention of the Chair specifically to the bottom paragraph at page 429 where it states:

Questions to the Ministry on legislation or on a subject matter that is before a committee, when appropriately cast, are normally permitted as long as the questioning does not interfere with the committee's work or anticipate its report.

In reviewing the question posed by my colleague from Saint John, I think you would find that the question was on the subject matter of an issue which arose in the House that was contradicted at the committee. It was widely reported. It was the subject matter of much public debate and in the public domain.

Therefore I respectfully submit the question did not contravene the rules of procedure and was properly posed. Again for emphasis I suggest that this question was not in contravention of the rules of the House.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I beg to differ with the hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough. His citation of the appropriate words from Marleau and Montpetit is absolutely correct. It is his characterization of the question that causes me trouble.

As he said, the member for Saint John posed a question based on a statement the minister made in the House and another statement that the minister made in committee; but the statement made in the House had been referred to the committee by motion of the House following a ruling from the Chair on a question of privilege and was the subject matter of the discussion in the committee.

I refer the hon. member further to page 885 of Marleau and Montpetit, the chapter on committees:

It is not in order for Members to allude to committee proceedings or evidence in the House until the committee has presented its report to the House. This restriction applies both to references made by Members in debate and during Oral Question Period.

I think that disposes of the matter and I stand by the ruling I made at the time. In my view the question was out of order.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, during question period I posed a question of the minister of public works regarding the breach of the code of ethics by Alfonso Gagliano and his staff to seek preferential hiring treatment for Liberal supporters and friends.

In response the minister invited me to go into the lobby and repeat that. I am prepared to do that. I am on my way to the lobby now and if he wishes to join me I welcome him.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

We thank the hon. member for the clarification on that point.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada,, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 2.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will go back to endangered species and to my support for the general concept of a federal species at risk bill. Over 80% of Canadians are concerned about species at risk and support efforts to prevent species from becoming extinct.

I am part of that 80%. My home province of Saskatchewan signed on to the concept of federal species at risk legislation several years ago. The plan it signed on to was a complementary and co-operative process with the provinces. However today I stand before the House as a concerned member of parliament. I represent a concerned province and concerned constituents.

The proposed legislation goes far beyond the intent of the accord signed by the provinces and the federal government in the late 1990s. Saskatchewan like many other provinces has serious concerns about the direction in which this species at risk legislation is headed.

I hope that through talking about Saskatchewan's experience with this type of legislation it would be clear to all members of the House how important co-operation is. This legislation cannot be effective without co-operation.

I strongly oppose the clause in Bill C-5 that allows the minister entirely, at his own discretion and without any criteria, negotiation or accountability, to impose federal law on provincial jurisdiction. This will not facilitate the co-operation about which I have spoken extensively. That is wrong. It will bring confrontation and will ultimately be unworkable. The species at risk in my province and my country deserve better than a piece of ineffective legislation.

I understand the necessity of the federal species at risk legislation. We have seen the importance of it when the federal government passed the Migratory Birds Convention Act in 1994, but we need to have a balance between federal and provincial jurisdictions to meet the two extremes of each power. There needs to be negotiation with the provinces.

I strongly encourage the government to look at Bill C-5 on the aspect of jurisdiction. The bill should not be passed until this key aspect has been considered.

I spoke briefly about this topic when I was in the House yesterday and today I need to reiterate what I said then. The way in which Bill C-5 would delegate jurisdiction between the federal and provincial levels encourages confrontation rather than co-operation with the provinces.

Bill C-5 would give the federal government's Minister of the Environment the power to impose its laws on provincial lands completely at the discretion of the minister. However it may be necessary to give the federal government some measure of power to impose its laws on provinces that are not behaving with an adequate respect for these species, but using discretion as a measure of power given to the federal minister is hopelessly vague. It is unfair to leave decisions falling into the realm of jurisdiction up to the discretion of one person.

In our criminal justice system the decision on whether or not to convict someone of a criminal offence lies in the hands and discretion of twelve people and not one. When a decision such as this one is left up to discretion we open the door to one's moral, ethical and even religious dispositions to come into the mix. This is something sure to spark endless debate.

We need strict guidelines on when the federal government can impose its laws on the provinces so that the provinces and the landowners know what to expect in terms of interference from the federal level.

Since Bill C-5 leaves the power of the federal government completely at the discretion of the minister responsible, landowners do not know if or when the federal government can or will impose its laws on provincial lands. Instead of working together with the provinces and property owners the federal government is introducing uncertainty, resentment and distrust.

The federal government must be responsible for ensuring that it consult and co-operate with the provinces when making these considerations.

Somewhat ironically, in a 1999 independent study commissioned by the federal government, a review of national accord gap analysis, nine out of the twelve provinces and territories scored higher than the federal government regarding wildlife conservation. In fact, the federal government scored 44% on the test whereas all of the prairie provinces scored in the top five with marks ranging from 64% in British Columbia to 85% in Alberta.

How can one not see the irony in this? Under these conditions which are found in a study commissioned by the federal government itself, it still insists that federal wildlife officials be allowed to peer over the shoulder of its provincial counterparts to ensure that they are doing their jobs. The provinces are obviously doing a better job of wildlife conservation than the federal government.

Why does Bill C-5 not recognize the federal government's own shortcomings in this area? Rather, it adopts an arrogant attitude ensuring a dominating and coercive attitude toward the provinces. Each province and territory of Canada is different in regard to the species that inhabit their boundaries. This is why legislation protecting endangered species, such as Bill C-5, should encourage feedback and co-operation with the provinces.

Similarly, officials from the government of Saskatchewan expressed concerns in a number of areas covered in Bill C-5.

First, they are of the impression that it does not adequately allow for provinces to take an ecosystem approach. What is good for one species in the grasslands may not be good for another species inhabiting the same environment. Bill C-5 is fairly narrow-minded. It does not adequately allow for the provinces to take a diverse and open-minded perspective toward wildlife conservation.

Second, the government of Saskatchewan is worried that it does not have the adequate resources or the timeframe to meet all of the provincial requirements outlined in the bill.

Moreover, Bill C-5 is diverging from the spirit of the national accord for the protection of species at risk signed in 1996 by most provincial and territorial ministers responsible for wildlife and by the federal government. The accord lays out a variety of commitments to protect species at risk. By its terms, the governments recognize that intergovernmental co-operation is crucial to the conservation and protection of species at risk, that the governments must play a leadership role in complementary federal, provincial and territorial legislation, regulations, policies and programs.

Business of the House
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations between the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That at the conclusion of today's debate on Private Members' Business item M-296, the question be deemed put, a recorded division demanded and deferred to the end of Government Orders on Tuesday, March 12, 2002.

Business of the House
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member for St. Albert have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 2.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

February 21st, 2002 / 3:15 p.m.

Western Arctic
Northwest Territories

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Secretary of State (Children and Youth)

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on Bill C-5. In Canada's north there is a very close relationship between the people and the wildlife. We know from what has been handed down from generation to generation about the different kinds of species in the north, how they live and thrive and where they live. We depend on wildlife in many ways. They are an important part of our heritage.

In Canada's north we are made up of territories and not provinces. In the overall federal strategy to protect species at risk and in the species at risk act itself we are treated as equal partners. Our heritage and connection to the environment and wildlife are well recognized. What is also recognized in this proposed act is the co-operation based approach we take on many issues affecting the north.

By glancing down the list of these motions one might get the impression that there is a move afoot to undo the work of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

This is not the case at all. In fact the standing committee has made over 100 amendments to Bill C-5, many of which provide additional clarity to the intent of the proposed act. The government supports most of these amendments, although in some cases the text will have to be cleaned up. Approximately 30 government motions deal with what we can call housekeeping matters to ensure consistency in wording throughout the bill while maintaining the intent of the standing committee amendments.

There are however some significant amendments from the standing committee that change the fundamental approach of the legislation, an approach that we have worked on long and hard with provinces and territories in Canada.

I am not here to provide a lecture on federal-provincial-territorial relations. Nor am I planning on instructing my colleagues on the Canadian constitution, however tempting that might be. However members will see, as I discuss several key government motions, that the urge to deliver both lectures is fairly tempting. I am here to speak in favour of the government motions that restore the co-operative approach with provinces and territories.

Unfortunately, standing committee amendments eliminate the incentives for the territories to complete the development of their own species at risk legislation to meet their commitments under the accord. The standing committee's approach, whereby the safety net is only available in the territories for game species, does not fit at all with the way things are done now. It also contradicts ongoing devolution of federal responsibilities to territorial governments.

Under the standing committee's approach, we end up being hypocrites. Here we are devolving authorities to the territories and doing such things as engaging in self-government talks. We promote the empowerment of people so they can sustain themselves economically, politically, socially and otherwise. However, what do we do? We hamstring them with legislation. We are devolving these authorities but we would be taking them away through the species at risk act. I am sure members will agree this does not work and it is not how we want to act.

We all agree that governments have a responsibility to protect species and their critical habitats in their jurisdictions. That is why the government signed the accord for the protection of species at risk with provinces and territories in 1996.

Canada is a large country and we must work together to protect species and habitats. The accord is key to maintaining good relations with other jurisdictions and it is working. Since it was agreed to, most provinces and territories have introduced or amended their legislation to meet their commitments in the accord.

Bill C-5 is intended to be a key component of the government's efforts to meet its commitments under the accord. If the intent of the bill is contrary to the accord, we are certainly not doing our part. More important, we would be seriously jeopardizing relationships that are critical to wildlife management in Canada.

I was born in the north. I have lived in the north in a largely harvesting conservation family for more than one generation. We have lived with the wildlife species in my area and still harvest after generations the same species because we probably have inherited the gift of knowing how important that wildlife isto us.

We did not need legislation to do that. I am not saying we should not have legislation, but we should remember when we empower those people, governments and districts and give them the levels of authority, then we should respect our agreements.

Changes that diminish the incentive for other jurisdictions to strengthen their legislative base consistent with the accord for the protection of species at risk will not work. Nor should the proposed species at risk act contradict our approach to devolution in the territories.

The standing committee amendments fail to recognize that territorial laws cover more than game species. The government agrees with the standing committee that protection should be effective, however we cannot support amendments that make it a legal requirement to reach federal-provincial-territorial agreement on what this constitutes within six months.

Work is ongoing among federal, provincial and territorial governments to develop bilateral agreements and a policy for determining effective protection under the accord.

The tight timeline of six months on such an important matter is impractical and raises serious concerns. It derides the whole issue of consensus building and getting people to buy into the process and understand it fully. The government motions ensure that the policy is developed in a timely and inclusive manner. It would be more effective over the long term to have all governments sign on together to an agreement that outlines commitments for species and habitat protection than it would be for the federal government to try to unilaterally impose criteria on the provinces and territories.

Our relationship with the federal, provincial and territorial governments is a very tricky dance. It is a very delicate and sensitive issue. We must respect that and guard the progress we have made with them.

It is necessary for the governor in council to have the discretion to make decisions related to intergovernmental issues. That is the way it works in Canada. The governor in council also does not want to be put in a position where a province or territory or the endangered species conservation council dictates that action be taken, action such as applying the safety net, that may have a considerable impact on resources.

Think of what it could mean in a case where compensation might be applied. These are important motions. In no way do they negate or discredit the work of the standing committee. However, within the context of many years of federal-provincial-territorial co-operation on species and habitat, we know otherwise and must make these motions for governor in council discretion on the safety net. Legislation cannot guarantee the protection of species at risk and their critical habitat.

A co-operative approach backed by broad authorities to step in when necessary comes as close as we can to ensuring we achieve the stated purposes of the bill. We have an excellent bill that is the result of much hard work, many years of study, of steady consultation, good will on the part of provinces and territories and a made in Canada approach.

These motions are in keeping with such an approach, and I urge all members of the House to support them.

Species at Risk Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to take part in the debate on this bill with other colleagues from my party. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my colleague, the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, on the work that he has done as the Bloc Quebecois critic on the environment.

First, the Bloc Quebecois recognizes the importance of this matter, as indeed, some species are at risk, to the point where some are close to extinction, which makes the situation very serious, if not critical.

This being said, we need to consider Bill C-5 from two different perspectives. First, we must ask ourselves whether or not Bill C-5 really provides additional protection that can be enforced. Second, we must ask ourselves if it will really contribute to enhancing the protection of our ecosystems and the endangered species that make up these ecosystems.

We believe that the answer to these two questions is no. I would like to use the time provided for me to specify why this bill does not constitute an effective means to act.

First, we must point out that Quebec has already acted in this area over the years, and acted in a very decisive way in the late 1980s. Indeed, Quebec passed the act respecting threatened or vulnerable species in 1989. It also passed the act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife, and fishing regulations.

These three legal supports provide Quebec with all the tools required in order to identify species at risk, to legally designate them as threatened or at risk, to protect their habitat and to develop implementation plans that are tailor made to restore and provide sufficient protection for species and habitat that are in a precarious situation.

As I mentioned earlier, the Bloc Quebecois completely supports the underlying principle of providing additional protection for species. We heard answers from the Minister of the Environment and member for Victoria, in British Columbia, given to questions asked by the Bloc Quebecois regarding the implementation of the Kyoto protocol. He stated that the Bloc Quebecois was opposed to the protection of endangered species, that the Bloc Quebecois does not care about them.

I will forewarn you that he will use what I would term malicious tactics to try to interpret my words as indicative of the Bloc Quebecois position. I will deprive him right away of any chance of doing so—let him listen carefully, I repeat—the Bloc Quebecois is not opposed to the principle of enhanced protection for endangered species. Is that clear?

We do not, however, believe that Bill C-5 can make it possible to protect endangered species any better.

In fact, we are opposed to this bill because we consider this, once again, an intrusion into areas that are wholly under the jurisdiction of Quebec. There is a direct overlap with the Quebec legislation, which has been in place since 1989.

My colleague, the hon. member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie, has made a public commitment to the Canadian Nature Federation to speak to the Quebec Minister of the Environment on the need to review the 1989 legislation with a view to improving it and bringing it up to date. We acknowledge that between 1989 and 2002, with the changes occurring in ecosystems, with new elements such as acid rain and all manner of climate changes, there is a need for updating the legislation. This is a commitment my colleague from Rosemont--Petite-Patrie has made to the public. He has therefore made a commitment to ask the Quebec environment minister to improve the 1989 statute and to bring it up to speed as far as the serious situation of endangered species is concerned.

We believe that this bill is liable to create more red tape rather than to make it possible for the limited resources to be properly channeled where they can do the most good. We in the Bloc Quebecois are of the opinion that the Government of Quebec is already legislating in the areas addressed by Bill C-5. While acknowledging the urgency of improving the implementation of these statutes, we do not believe that Bill C-5 will make it possible to achieve the results it is claimed to be able to achieve.

While we recognize that the environment is a responsibility shared by the federal government and the provinces, it is increasingly clear to us that the federal government is ignoring this fact by going completely against a true environmental harmonization between the various levels of government. Indeed, instead of assuming as it should its major responsibilities—among other things, implementation of the Kyoto protocol comes to mind—the federal government stubbornly keeps taking over jurisdictions that do not belong to it.

Instead of trying to act effectively where it should, it prefers to invade areas in which the provinces are already doing an adequate job—I did not say perfect, I said adequate—even though there may be room for improvement. This is in fact why the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie is making representations to the Quebec minister of the environment.

Moreover, what the federal government calls a double safety net—that is two levels of government operating in the same jurisdiction—waters down the accountability of both and seriously complicates the assignment of responsibilities. Both levels can say “I feel that I am not doing the right thing, but it is the other one's fault”. This is what happens when the government wants to overmanage and overgovern. It is always easier to shift responsibility to someone else by involving a number of stakeholders.

In conclusion, Bill C-5 will only create duplication, at a time when resources are limited and it is important to maximize efforts in this area and channel them properly. We recognize the need to improve the protection of our ecosystems and the endangered plant and animal species that constitute them, but we do not believe Bill C-5 is the way to go.

The Bloc Quebecois opposes the principle of Bill C-5 today.